Locally Sourced FoodsNMRA and the National Restaurant Association want to keep New Mexico’s restaurateurs  ahead of the curve. Our job is to inform you about  dining trends and menu buzz. Specifically, more and more restaurants are adding locally sourced food to meet a diner’s desire.

According to the NRA’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 57 percent of adults look for limited-service restaurants serving locally sourced food. However, 45 percent say an important preference is organic or environmentally friendly food.

Start small when incorporating local or seasonal ingredients on menus. Here are six tips to help:

6 strategies to integrate locally sourced food

Go to farmers markets.  Zak Dolezal, owner of Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen in Crystal Lake, Illinois is a big farmer’s market shopper.  In addition, if the vendors don’t have the ingredients you want, they will point you in the right direction, he says.

That’s how Ryan Stone of Levi’s Stadium began adding local flavor.  Therefore, when he came from Vancouver he began calling California companies that had supplied his restaurant in Canada.

Do your homework. Stone studied food labels to find the names of local producers. Find out what’s in season and when your growers expect to have certain items.

“If Brussels sprouts come in, they are on the menu in eight different ways the next day,” says Greg Christian, CEO of Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners. Learn what is coming up next and start planning ahead, he says.

Develop a sustainable food supply.  Work with growers associations and cheese-maker guilds.

Check out the competition. Explore other restaurants’ menus that list food sources.

Edit your menu. The smaller the menu, the easier to use seasonal ingredients, Christian says.

Manage customer expectations. Know what to say when customers complain.  Therefore, if a favorite dish is out of season and no longer on the menu, explain why.

“It’s not always easy to explain that the parsnips they had one day might not be available the following week,” says Karen Malody, a consultant for Culinary Options in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Visit the NRA’s Conserve website for more ideas.